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TV REVIEW : 'Diagnosis Murder' Is DOA

October 29, 1993|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

"Diagnosis Murder" is for Dick Van Dyke fans who will accept him in anything, no matter how inept.

Premiering at 8 tonight on CBS (Channels 2 and 8), the "lighthearted mystery" series stars Van Dyke as physician Mark Sloan, a teacher and chief of internal medicine at a large hospital, positions that naturally allow him to spend chunks of his day investigating homicides.

Resident physician Jack Stewart (Scott Baio) and resident pathologist Amanda Bentley (Victoria Rowell) have so much time to burn that they can assist Sloan in his sleuthing. Cheapskate hospital administrator Norman Briggs (Michael Tucci) has nothing better to do than roam the halls harassing Sloan. Sloan's homicide detective son, Steve (Dick's son, Barry Van Dyke), has so much spare time that he can regularly pop into the hospital to help his dad solve crimes and incessantly complain about having bad hair days.

The premiere of "Diagnosis Murder" has a bad day--period. Written by Jack Kramer, it has Sloan (a character Van Dyke played in an episode of "Jake and the Fatman" and three subsequent TV movies) sniffing foul play in a hit-and-run fatality that implicates a Catholic priest. The absurdly contrived plot is epitomized by administrator Briggs arriving at church at midday for no reason other than to participate in a ludicrous confessional scene with Sloan.

There is no mystery here, no suspense, no humor, no pulse, no heartbeat, nothing beyond the amiable Van Dyke looking hopelessly out of sync in a series that evokes an occasional memory of better times. Oh, Rob!

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